Russian Orthodox Church head Alexiy II dies
Russian Orthodox Church head Alexiy II has passed away at the age of 79. Though there is no official word on the cause of his death, it is said that he has been sick for some time now. The Russian Orthodox Church counts nearly 70% of the population as among its members and Alexiy II was seen as a greatly revered Patriarch.
Taking control in 1990, just before the fall of the Soviet Union, Alexiy II occupied a role of prominence in the process of building a new Russia
In the new era of restored freedom and influence the church found itself with a prominent role rebuilding national self-esteem and morality in the post-Soviet period, our correspondent says.
He insisted on his Church's right to be the sole national Church of Russia, bringing the scattered branches of the Russian Orthodox Church back under the control of the Moscow Patriarchate.
Born Alexei Rediger to a Russian Orthodox family living in Estonia in 1929, the future patriarch rose swiftly through the ranks of the Church after studying theology in St Petersburg.
By the age of 32 he was a bishop, by 35 an archbishop.
After moving to Moscow he served as the Patriarchate's chief administrator and the deputy head of the Church's external affairs department.
In the second post, he attracted criticism for what many thought was his unswerving obedience to the dictates of Soviet foreign policy.
Supporters argued that he was merely doing his best to win concessions for his persecuted church.
No date has been set for the funeral yet.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will be returning to Russia from India on Friday